The outcome of next month’s U.S. presidential election may turn on one little word: jobs. President Obama and challenger Mitt Romney are offering competing recipes for economic growth.
But we can assure you that neither of them will come close to matching the greatest job creator in American history.
In fact, it is said of him that one quarter of all the jobs - not just in the United States but in the world - can be traced to something he thought of and made in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Thomas Edison not only invented some of the most practical devices of all time - the incandescent light bulb, the phonograph, the motion picture projector, waxed paper, and much more - his 1,093 patents led to the development of whole industries.
Flipped on a light switch recently? Watched a good movie? Ridden up any skyscrapers? Edison invented things that made all that possible.
In the case of the giant office towers, for instance, he developed 46-meter-long kilns into which long sections of concrete, reinforced with steel rods, could be cured.
Thomas Edison was a pragmatic entrepreneur who worked on solutions to real-life problems and vigorously defended his patents on the devices he came up with. (Wikipedia Commons)
Edison’s vacuum tubes made possible the development of radio and all that has come after it. His pioneering work electrifying rails sped the introduction of subway trains.
Edison even invented ways to invent! Work inside his laboratory complex in Menlo Park, New Jersey, was devoted to what he called “the rapid development of inventions” that would provide “useful things that every man, woman, and child wants - at a price that they can afford.”
Of his assistants, he demanded - and got - a revolutionary invention every six months.
Often this genius, who had been expelled from school for being “mentally retarded,” supervised the work on 40 projects simultaneously.
Just as things don’t always go so well for the job-creators of today, Thomas Edison had some ideas that didn’t work out so well. He tried and failed to extract bits of gold from iron ore.
He made a concrete piano that was rather cumbersome, to say the least. And although he made a box in which both a film and music played, he never figured out how to make talking pictures.
Still, as one Thomas Edison Web site puts it, “He led no armies into battle, he conquered no countries, and he enslaved no peoples... Nonetheless, he exerted a degree of power the magnitude of which no warrior ever dreamed.”